- Latin Name: Solenopsis invicta
- Size: Fire ants are up to 3/8” long
- Color: Red Imported Fire ants are reddish brown. Black fire ants are black and tropical fire ants can be red or black. The abdomen on fire ants is darker than the head.
- Found in: Southeastern United States, particularly in Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas, and Alabama
- Overview: There are 3 main types of fire ants: red imported fire ants, black fire ants and tropical fire ants. Red imported fire ants are the most common of the three species in the United States
About Fire Ants
Fire ants arrived in a port in Alabama in the 1930s from South America. They were not intentionally brought to the United States like the name “red imported fire ant” suggests. These vigorous ants are able to survive a wide range of climates and temperature shifts. They prefer warm, dry places with plenty of natural light. Fire ants are primarily meat eaters feasting on dead animals or living insects. They will attach to live insects and then sting them until they die. Once inside a home, they will look for fatty foods before taking sweets.
Up to 500,000 fire ants will live in one soil mound. A typical colony has about 250,000 ants. Fire ants may live in a colony with only one queen or multiple queens. In the spring and summer, winged male and female ants leave the colony and mate in the air. The male dies after mating and the females begin their own colonies.
Facts About These Ants
The name fire ant came about because the pain of a sting from one of these creatures is considered similar to being set on fire. Five million people in the Southeast United States are stung annually. Red imported fire ants will sting and release alkaloid venom into your skin. In addition to stinging, they bite causing a burning sensation. Some people are allergic to the sting and will need immediate medical attention. If you have shortness of breathe, dizziness or a headache after being stung, see a health professional. If you are not allergic, you will still be in pain from the sting. The red welt will turn into a white abscess and could lead to scarring.
The queen in a fire ant colony will live up to seven years may reproduce nine million eggs during her lifetime. Fire ants do not have any natural predators in the United States. Look for large, oddly-shaped soil mounds up to four feet wide and 24 inches high near your foundation or in your lawn. Fire ants may enter your home through the air-conditioning unit in addition to the common entries like pet doors and cracks near doors and windows. Keep an eye on your pet’s water and food bowls, especially if you keep them outdoors, as fire ants will eat pet food and leave a trail to the location of the bowls.
Due to the aggressive nature of red fire ants, do not try to remove them on your own. Ants can bite and sting a person or pet multiple times so it’s recommended to call in a pest professional to handle the issue quickly and effectively.